7.6/10
11,339
106 user 103 critic

Spellbound (2002)

Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee.

Director:

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 17 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Murderball (2005)
Documentary | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Quadriplegics, who play full-contact rugby in wheelchairs, overcome unimaginable obstacles to compete in the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece.

Directors: Henry Alex Rubin, Dana Adam Shapiro
Stars: Joe Soares, Keith Cavill, Mark Zupan
Comedy | Horror | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

A magician meets an eccentric girl and offers her to work together in his magic show. It is only until a year later that he starts to know her personally and develops a feeling towards her despite her own problems.

Director: In-ho Hwang
Stars: Ye-jin Son, Min-ki Lee, Seong-hoon Sin
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Documentary | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.

Director: Steve James
Stars: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates
Dark Days (2000)
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A cinematic portrait of the homeless population who live permanently in the underground tunnels of New York City.

Director: Marc Singer
Stars: Marc Singer
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.

Director: Andrew Jarecki
Stars: Arnold Friedman, Jesse Friedman, David Friedman
Documentary | Biography | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Die-hard gamers compete to break world records on classic arcade games.

Director: Seth Gordon
Stars: Steve Wiebe, Billy Mitchell, Mark Alpiger
Lucky I (2010)
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

A documentary about the American lottery and some of the industry's biggest winners (and losers).

Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Stars: Steve Ledoux
Wordplay (2006)
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

An in-depth look at The New York Times' long-time crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his loyal fan base.

Director: Patrick Creadon
Stars: Will Shortz, Ken Burns, Jon Stewart
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

The remarkable story of The Weather Underground, radical activists of the 1970s, and of radical politics at its best and most disastrous.

Directors: Sam Green, Bill Siegel
Stars: Lili Taylor, Pamela Z, Jim Lange
Documentary | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.

Director: Leon Gast
Stars: Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Looking for answers to life's big questions, a stuttering boy joins his high school debate team.

Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Stars: Reece Thompson, Anna Kendrick, Nicholas D'Agosto
Documentary
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A homeless musician finds meaning to his life when he starts a friendship with dozens of parrots.

Director: Judy Irving
Stars: Mark Bittner, Judy Irving
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Angela Arenivar ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ubaldo Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Father (as Ubaldo)
Jorge Arenivar ...
Himself - Angela's Brother (as Jorge)
Scott McGarraugh ...
Himself - Ranch Owner (as Mr. McGarraugh)
Lindy McGarraugh ...
Herself - Ranch Owner (as Mrs. McGarraugh)
Concepción Arenivar ...
Herself - Angela's Mother (as Concepción)
Mrs. Slaughter ...
Herself - Angela's Teacher
Neelima Marupudi ...
Herself - Potter County Champion (as Neelima)
Nupur Lala ...
Herself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Whitehurst ...
Herself - Nupur's Teacher
Parag Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Father (as Parag)
Meena Lala ...
Herself - Nupur's Mother (as Meena)
Kuna Lala ...
Himself - Nupur's Brother (as Kuna)
Ted Brigham ...
Himself - Spelling Bee Participant
Ms. Blair ...
Herself - Ted's Teacher
Edit

Storyline

This documentary follows 8 teens and pre-teens as they work their way toward the finals of the Scripps Howard national spelling bee championship in Washington D.C. All work quite hard and practice daily, first having to win their regional championship before they can move on. Interviews include the parents and teachers who are working with them. The competitors not only work hard to get to the finals but face tremendous pressure as the original group of over 250 competitors is whittled down and the words they must spell get ever more difficult. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Little kids. Big words. American dreams. See more »


Certificate:

G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

27 June 2003 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Agonisma orthografias  »

Edit

Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,508, 4 May 2003, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$5,728,431, 7 December 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

|

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

In 2007, it was added to "IDA's Top 25 Documentaries" of all-time by the International Documentary Association ranked #4. See more »

Goofs

While interviewing Harry in his room the boom mic is deliberately shown after Harry asks "Is that thing edible?" See more »

Quotes

Harry Altman: [pointing to the boom microphone] Is this thing edible?
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is no cast list; a cast member is considered credited if a subtitle or an item in the film prints the name (or partial name). See more »

Connections

Featured in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Wizard film, weird country
15 April 2005 | by See all my reviews

In one sense, the U.S. National Spelling Bee is a strange thing, a freakish competition for freaks to take part in, and designed to make them only more freakish. You don't have to understand the words to win, you merely have to spell them, and the winner would seem to have proved little else than their willingness to work hard for no social benefit, and their ability to withstand extreme pressure. Make no mistake, the kids featured in this documentary are bright and talented, but one can't help but wonder whether such ruthless competition, or the attitude that they are in some sense a "gifted" elite, is really good for society or for the individuals themselves.

But it's not the competition that makes 'Spellbound', a documentary about 1999's contest, so gripping (we follow eight of the 249 finalists, but the film is sympathetic to them all, and does not encourage us to set one against the rest). Rather, this comes from the way the 'Spellbound' reminds us what a diverse country America is: ethnically, socially, physically. These kids come from all over, and while on one hand we see a very unusual slice of American life in this film, it's nonetheless a surprisingly broad one. Some of the contrasts are obvious: a family of Indian descent say that in America, if you work hard, you will succeed; but we also meet a family of Mexican descent (who consider that they have worked hard and succeeded, but who have little compared with the Indians), and a black family in a grim district of Washington (arguably failing to thrive after several hundred years). Yet in spite of their differences, their children are all (give or take the final few words) as good as each other (at least when it comes to spelling). Today, social mobility in America is lower than in Europe; but the old American dream, it seems, lives on in the spelling bee. And although the extreme preparation of most competitors appears to place a ludicrously inflated value on the work ethic, and though some (though not all) of the parents are frighteningly pushy, there's also something quite sweet, in this age of guns and violence, in such a fierce competition fought only with words.

'Spellbound' is filmed without tricks, or any special artiness, but nonetheless offers an unexpected insight into contemporary American society. But please let us not copy them and bring the bee back here!


26 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?
Review this title | See all 106 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Watch the Latest Episode of "The IMDb Show"

Katee Sackhoff talks about her characters on "Battlestar Galactica," "Star Wars: Rebels," and "The Flash." Plus, "The IMDb Show" learns what it takes to wield a lightsaber.

Watch the show